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Happy Thanksgiving

Exploring cultural food influences of this holiday
Written by , published November 24, 2014

thanksgiving-mealWith the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I’m wrapping up loose ends at the office while occasionally daydreaming about tomorrow’s feast. I’m particularly excited about Brussels sprouts, of all things.

Read Lori Moffat's Cuisine Confidential

I bought one of those gorgeous branches of sprouts, still attached to the stalk like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, and I’m planning to roast them until they are sweet and delicious. Not a traditional Pilgrim dish, I’m sure. Nor did Brussels sprouts appear at the feast we Texans dub the real “First Thanksgiving,” a meal celebrated near present-day El Paso in 1598, when Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his expedition gave thanks for surviving their journey across the Chihuahuan desert.

But as much as tomorrow’s meal is linked to traditional foods ––turkey, cranberries in some guise, stuffing, pecan & pumpkin pies –– I always enjoy learning which dishes Americans with foreign backgrounds bring to the table. A friend with Cuban relatives, for example, will have a Cuban turkey (pavo) at their table –– seasoned, she says, with garlic, cumin, oregano, and lime juice. I’d love to learn which variations you’ll bring to your celebration of thanks.

As most of you know, when it comes to food, I’ll try most things at least once. Fried grasshoppers? Bring them. Tongue tacos? Yes, please, with extra cilantro. The promise of culinary exploration is one reason I like to visit Houston, especially when I have the opportunity to explore cuisines I know little about. I recently had the good fortune of exploring the menu at one of Houston’s most authentic Korean restaurants, –– Nam Gang Korean (at 1411 Gessner at Long Point; 713/467-8801) –– with Houston friends, one of whom spent considerable time working (and eating) in Seoul a few years ago.

It was a Tuesday night, and we heard there was a tech convention in town nearby. That might explain the crowd: The place was packed with Korean businessmen, who, almost without exception, were drinking copious amounts of the alcoholic sweet-potato beverage called Soju. We ordered some ourselves, along with a stunning array of raw meats and vegetables, which we cooked ourselves, to our liking, over a charcoal fire in the center of our table. Korean meals last for hours, and ours did, too. Great fun, and a novel approach to dinner that I hope to repeat soon.

And so this morning, as I think about this particular meal, and others, and the friends and loved ones with whom I share life’s vicissitudes, I’m feeling thankful.

Have a lovely holiday tomorrow.

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